Judge to rule soon on accused killer's trial competency

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Dothan (WTVY)-- A Houston County judge will decide soon if accused killer Michael Allen Tharp is mentally competent to stand trial.

Michael Allen Tharp is led to a courtroom for pretrial hearing in this August 11, 2016 photo.

During a hearing Tuesday Dr. Amber Simpler, a clinical psychologist at Taylor-Hardin Secure Medical Facility, testified Tharp, in her opinion, understands the charges against him and will be able to assist his defense attorneys.

Tharp, 55, is scheduled for trial December 4 for the 2012 shooting death and robbery of his step-father. 68-year old Joseph Bernard Hendley . The alleged murder occurred at the victim’s home in Cowarts.

Simpler testified Tharp has suffered emotional issues, some potentially caused by not knowing the identity of his father. He also has a history of drug abuse, she said.

Houston County Circuit Judge Kevin Moulton should rule in the next few days on whether the trial will proceed as scheduled.

Tharp is charged with capital murder and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.